Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are found inside whole pumpkins and make for a nutritious, tasty snack.

They’re often sold with their hard, outer shell removed, so you may wonder whether it’s safe to eat whole seeds that are still in their shells.

This article explains whether you can eat pumpkin seed shells, as well as their possible benefits and downsides.

Are pumpkin seed shells safe?

Pumpkin seeds are small, green seeds that are surrounded by a yellowish-white shell.

If you carve open a whole pumpkin, you’ll find them surrounded by orange, stringy flesh. Many people scoop out the whole seeds and roast them — shell and all — as a snack.

However, those sold in grocery stores are typically shelled. That’s why commercial varieties are a different color, size, and shape than ones you might prepare at home.

Even so, pumpkin seed shells are safe for most people to eat. In fact, they add to the seeds’ distinctive crunch and provide more nutrients.

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Whole pumpkin seeds — with the shells on — are typically prepared at home and rarely found at grocery stores. They’re generally safe to eat.

Nutrition and benefits of shelled vs. whole pumpkin seeds

Whole pumpkin seeds have more than twice the fiber as shelled ones (1, 2).

One ounce (28 grams) of whole pumpkin seeds offers approximately 5 grams of fiber, while the same amount of shelled seeds has only 2 grams (1, 2).

Fiber promotes optimal digestion by feeding the friendly bacteria in your gut. It may even reduce your risk of heart disease by lowering your cholesterol and blood pressure levels (3, 4).

Thus, whole pumpkin seeds provide an extra boost of beneficial fiber.

These seeds are also rich in several other nutrients, including zinc, magnesium, and copper. Additionally, they’re high in iron, which is vital for blood health and oxygen transport (1, 5).

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Whole pumpkin seeds are much higher in fiber than shelled ones. This nutrient helps improve digestion and heart health.

Risks of eating pumpkin seed shells

While they’re largely safe to eat, whole pumpkin seeds can pose problems for some people.

Individuals with digestive conditions, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, also known as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), should avoid or limit whole pumpkin seeds — and even shelled varieties.

That’s because fiber-rich seeds may exacerbate intestinal inflammation and cause stomach upset, diarrhea, pain, bloating, and other symptoms (6).

Since pumpkin seeds are so small, they can also be easy to overeat. Thus, you should be mindful of portion sizes when eating them — even if you don’t have a digestive issue.

Furthermore, you may want to drink water when eating these seeds, as water is vital to helping fiber move through your digestive tract.

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Since whole pumpkin seeds are very high in fiber, you should consume them with plenty of fluids. People with digestive issues should limit or avoid them.

How to prepare whole pumpkin seeds

Preparing pumpkin seeds is simple if you have a pumpkin on hand.

After you slice off the top, use a spoon to remove the seeds and flesh. Then place the seeds in a colander and rinse them under cold water, gently removing any flesh from the seeds with your hands. Finally, pat them dry with a paper towel.

Pumpkin seeds can be eaten raw but taste especially delicious roasted.

To roast them, toss them in olive oil or melted butter, plus salt, pepper, and any other seasonings you desire. Spread them on a baking sheet and cook them in the oven at 300°F (150°C) for 30–40 minutes, or until brown and crunchy.

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Whole pumpkin seeds can be eaten raw or roasted for a delicious, crunchy snack.

The bottom line

Pumpkin seed shells are safe to eat and provide more fiber than green, shelled pumpkin seeds.

However, people with digestive conditions may want to avoid whole seeds, as their high fiber content can trigger symptoms like pain and diarrhea.

To enjoy whole pumpkin seeds, scoop them out of a whole pumpkin and roast them in the oven for a scrumptious snack.